10 Ways Tokyo Drift is Like Japan


In Part 2 of our series, we attempt to find more realistic scenes from Tokyo Drift. Namely, with the most footage shot in Japan’s capital, it was bound to get some things right. At least, with the actual film being shot on location for many of its shots, the vibe, look and feel seem somewhat authentic.

Source: IMDB

Let’s explore which of the clips they got close to spot-on.

You may like to check out our article about things Tokyo Drift gets wrong about Japan. You may also be interested in our article on the history and emergence of drift in Japan.

If you’re interested in our FAQ Section, you can check our page on Life in Japan or our dedicated Exploring Japan post.

1. Use of Genuine Proverbs

The expression used in the movie 出る杭は打たれる (Deru kui wa utareru) is a well-known Japanese proverb. In essence, it means ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered’, which is a clear reference to conformity being a major part of Japanese society.

Source: IMDB

In Tokyo Drift, it is said to Sean as it identifies him as a foreigner and someone who is yet to adjust to his surroundings. However, even as a foreigner, he will have to get used to the norms of Japanese life and culture. Demonstrating, the expectations of the community, that all including foreigners should obey the general unspoken rules and customs.

2. Radical hairstyles, fashion and more

You’d be forgiven for thinking Japanese schools are pretty extreme in terms of grooming standards. Especially, the way some of the students are portrayed in the movie. The picture couldn’t be further from the truth though, as schools are extremely conservative in their approach. Only recently do we hear about some institutions gradually loosening some of their restrictions.

However, in the fashion hubs of Shibuya and nearby Harajuku, the sky is the limit for the kind of trends you can see. These are the places setting the latest fashion fads, with their broad range of clothing boutiques. You can also observe crazy hair colours and styles too.

In the movie, we see a lot of the cast with fairly extreme hairstyles and unique, colourful apparel. For school, they are probably too radical, but in the fashion districts of Tokyo, they would all fit right in. Hence, there is some truth to the fashion style and appearances used in the movie.

3. Tokyo Drift and it’s Neon Extravaganza

Tokyo Drift shows off the city’s display of dazzling LEDs and neons suggesting that the city never sleeps. That absolutely applies to Vegas, as I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Yet, Tokyo is a slightly different beast. In any case, you can witness all kinds of illuminated signage and flashing displays across some of the key districts.

Source: IMDB

The main place to visualise this blinding exhibition of flashing fury is Shibuya. Stand just on the edge of the Scramble Crossing and you can feast your eyes on several screens that encompass the limits of the intersection.

Shinjuku too has a variety of displays that showcase the sensory overload from the movie. Akihabara is another place where you can experience some of the crazy flurries of flashing LEDs. Ginza too has its fair share of pretty colours.

4. Shoebox Sized Apartments

It’s not true that if you take off your shoes before entering a Japanese apartment, you don’t have any space left. However, indeed, some Japanese apartments are so tiny they function only to allow people to sleep, wake up and bathe.

The movie portrays Sean’s sleeping quarters as a little cosy. You can see him struggle to adjust to the lack of space and fumble his way around as he awkwardly bumps into objects around the house.

While this exaggerates the lack of size in some aspects, in many ways while the units are small they also maximise the use of space. For example, combining bath and shower into a single compartment, placing the laundry and bathroom sink together, etc.

5. Carpark Elevators

Wanna get to the 15th floor of a building? There is an elevator for that. Wanna park your car in Japan? There is an elevator for that too. That’s right, they have multi-level parking lots, where ramps take up too much room, elevators maximise the use of limited space.

Source: IMDB

In the movie, when we first see Twinkie’s modified green monster of a hulky car, we see it exit the car elevator. This is a thing in Japan, where space and land is a precious commodity. It is common for cars to use anything from elevators to rising platforms.

Tall buildings with several storeys can accommodate multiple levels of cars with a single elevator. Naturally, you will find the traditional carparks with ramps also, but these are usually older parking lots that originally had more space.

6. Shoes Off Inside!

This is an extension of the cultural practice where shoes are not worn inside homes or shrines etc. In fact, personal hygiene and cleanliness are taught from a very early age in Japanese schools.

Shoes specifically, which have been worn outside are seen as dirty and have the potential to stain the classroom floor. Rather, slippers are used inside, and they never venture outdoors. This custom similar to many Japanese homes too.

On Sean’s first day at his new Japanese school, he carelessly wanders into his classroom. Unknowingly, he needs to remove his shoes in exchange for the ‘uwabaki’, at his teacher’s direction. The ‘uwabaki’ is the Japanese term for inside or interior slippers. So, the movie paints this picture quite accurately.

7. Mahjong is Japan’s Poker

Betting or any form of gambling for that matter has generally been taboo in Japan, minus a few exceptions. Horse Racing and Betting still occur, while Japan’s version of slot machines labelled ‘Pachinko’ are also popular.

However, Japan has yet to launch its casino in Japan, and so poker tournaments are non-existent, for now. Although, that looks to be changing shortly, due in part to recent legislation changes.

The closest thing the Japanese have to gamble with money, using some kind of playing cards originates from China. Mah Jong – which is the global name as it is played around Asia, involves blocks of certain symbols. Players then try to create the best hand they can through discarding certain tiles. This is a common game among younger men especially, who play for money.

Tokyo Drift shows a match earlier on with DK and his friends and Han taking part for real money. Again, an accurate depiction of how people gamble for money in Japan.

8. Exceeding 180km/h on JP Highways Tokyo Drift style

The movie holds some truth in this regard, in that factory-tuned cars are all speed limited to 180 km/h. The same applies to Japanese Police Highway Patrol cars, which are also factory standard.

You can imagine the scenario, a modified car, especially one travelling more than 180km/h will probably be ignored by police. Even in a high-speed chase, they are electronically limited, so it would not do them any good even if they tried.

Han comments on as Sean’s highway driving, as he notices he is well over the posted speed. Police use their radar gun to measure Sean’s high velocity and fail to react as a result. Han notes that the police don’t bother with people who exceed the 180km/h mark. Instead, Japan also has speed cameras in place, and while they are quite tolerant for speeds up to 100 km/h highways, they will catch speedsters way beyond this limit.

Source: IMDB

9. Crazy Car Conversions

In the final act, we see Sean and co prepare his final race weapon for the ultimate drift-off. They end up using the body of his father’s Ford Mustang while transplanting the engine from the original Silvia Sean totalled at the start of the movie. The RB26DETT, is the original heart of the legendary Nissan Skyline GTR, but this time the lucky recipient is a Ford.

In the world of car modifying, people are constantly outdoing each other with insane motor conversions. Japan is no stranger to this phenomenon, but the US is also another massive offender. From throwing STI engines into older VW bugs to RB26DETT’s being chucked into almost every enthusiast’s dream ride. Social media is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why this kind of culture has become popular.

On YouTube alone, you can find a whole range of ludicrous engine swaps. As competition intensifies, so too does people’s imagination, and so these days almost anything is possible. The only limiting factor is people’s budgets and creativity.

10. Yakuza Severing their Fingers

The actual practice of atoning, by cutting your finger, for some grievance or offence is still reported to exist within the Japanese Yakuza clan. The ritual itself is called 指詰め (ゆびつめ or yubitsume), which means ‘finger shortening’.

Tokyo Drift depicts the members of the yakuza having these kinds of distinguishing features. As you will notice, one or two of their fingers have been severed due to their disobedience at some point during their association with the group. Usually its the pinky, above the first knuckle. So, this you could say, is a true representation of the crime organisation in Tokyo.

So, how do you feel about this list? Is there anything we missed, or perhaps something you disagree with? Either way, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

If you’re planning your travels in Japan, we invite you to join our rapidly expanding Travel in Japan Discussion Group via Facebook.

You can also catch up on all our latest articles and photos via our Facebook and Instagram pages.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.